The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is pleased to announce the publication of Wilderness Protected Areas: Management guidelines for IUCN Category 1b protected areas produced by the IUCN Wilderness Specialist Group with international, multicultural contributors. These guidelines provide instruction on how best to manage, govern, evaluate and conserve wilderness areas globally. The guidelines are the latest in the IUCN WCPA Best Practice Protected Areas Guidelines Series.
The IUCN protected area management of category 1b (wilderness area) guidelines allow us to understand nature on its own terms and maintain those terms while allowing (and even encouraging) humans to experience wild nature. No other category of protected area management allows for such a relationship between humans and nature.
Wilderness decision makers navigate a plethora of diverse issues when creating and implementing management plans. The management of wilderness areas requires addressing both the ecological and cultural tenets of the area. The production of a good management plan necessitates understanding the ecology and the people in relationship with the wilderness area, and considering human needs, histories, and expectations as well as the requirements of wild nature itself. The guidelines cover many aspects of wilderness protection: history, objectives and extent of category 1b sites; key management principles applicable to wilderness; governance and authority frameworks applicable to 1b sites; management tools and issues; and ways in which 1b sites should be evaluated for effectiveness. These guidelines were produced and reviewed by an independent, international team of experts (Indigenous Peoples and non-indigenous peoples) who are field managers, academic researchers, and policymakers from governments and non-governmental organizations.
The Guidelines recognise that political complexities and management challenges may sometimes require an incremental approach to establishing wilderness protected areas. This can involve starting with smaller and/ or less intact protected areas that may require restoration and building up to larger, more intact areas over time. Thus, category 1b sites may include large, highly intact areas as well as smaller areas whose wilderness qualities can be improved or whose boundaries may be expanded. Many wilderness laws and policies at national or subnational levels recognise that there are areas worth protecting under protected area category 1b, which may not fully meet a wilderness standard immediately, but have good potential to achieve wilderness qualities in the future.
There has never been a time when a unified code for wilderness management is needed more than it is now. It is necessary to manage wilderness to protect thriving wilderness and healthy human relationships with wild nature against the threats posed by human growth and inappropriate development, climate change and other environmental degradations. The rapidly increasing rate and scale of these negative impacts on wilderness add additional issues and complexities to wilderness management not faced by previous generations. We urge you to view these challenges as prospects, not problems. Challenges bring new opportunities upon which wilderness managers and policymakers can capitalise: the negative impacts that threaten wilderness areas also create a social, political and economic imperative for wilderness protection and management, with important benefits of doing so. Healthy wilderness is a cost-effective, highly functioning, natural solution that builds planetary resilience.
The Wilderness Protected Areas: Management Guidelines is number 25 in the IUCN WCPA Best Practice Protected Areas Guidelines Series.